This new blossoming of your concern for me has brought me great happiness in the Lord – yes, you were always concerned, but had no way of showing it. I don’t mean that I lacked anything, for I’ve learned to be self-sufficient whatever my circumstances. I know how to be drab and how to be splendid; in any and every situation I know the secret of feasting and fasting, of being in wealth and being in want. I can cope with everything through the one who empowers me. Still it was good of you to take a share in my trouble.
You Philippians of course know that at the start of spreading the Joyful News, no other Assembly took a share in the business of giving and getting, except you alone, so that even when I was in Thessalonica you sent something for my needs – and not just once! I’m not focused on the gift but on the profit that accrues to your account.
But I’ve been paid in full, in fact I’m in surplus, I’m full up through receiving what you sent with Epaphroditus, a sweet -smelling gift, an acceptable sacrifice, delightful to God. And my God will supply your every need, out of his splendid store of riches in Messiah Jesus.
Splendour to our God and Father for all ages! Amen.
One of the characteristics of Paul’s letters is that he rarely forgets himself for long – that is, his apostolic self, as he Just as rarely gives away much about the merely human Paul. This could easily be seen as unpleasant – indeed there are readers who find it so- were it not that he always sees himself as sharing a common life with his converts and with God. Even that sharing can seem presumptuous. I think it is the disciplined commitment of a proud man who had recognsied that pride might be a problem.
Here he sees how inventive the Philippians have been in finding a way to support his ministry in Thessalonica and Ephesos, the latter being a sea voyage from Philippi. The shared life which is his delight is seen clearly in this instance: separated by distance and nationality from Ephesians, the Philippian Assembly makes belief in a shared life in Jesus a practical reality through its financial support of Paul’s ministry in Ephesos. The fact of one humanity in Messiah Jesus is asserted in the face of the diversity of races and the forced unity of the Roman Empire.
Paul the Emissary of Jesus notes that his ministry has taught him how to survive in the different conditions of life to which he has been subject. There is some influence in this of Stoicism and its vision of the wise person, who is unmoved by circumstances. For Paul however his strength comes from Jesus whose joyful news is for all races and all conditions of humanity. Paul reveals the roots of his thinking about the meaning of shared life when he writes of the Philippians “taking a share” in his troubles. In Messiah, no one is left alone with either success or trouble: everything is shared. The Greek vocabulary of koinonia, shared enterprise, is evident in this passage with its redefinition of what constitutes profit and wealth.
Paul’s assertion of his own abundant life, in unity with the Assemblies and with Jesus, carries conviction. He considers that he is lucky to do what he does and to share what he shares.